Union Organizers, Not Employees, Are Behind Walmart Smear Campaign

Ryan Williams

11/25/2013 12:01:00 AM - Ryan Williams

This week, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced that it is issuing complaints against Walmart as part of a so-called retaliation against employees who protested at a recent shareholders meeting. There’s no proof Walmart took any action against employees who protested, but facts are irrelevant when it comes to union-backed worker centers like OUR Walmart and their allies at the NLRB.

The complaint was unveiled during a call with the media held by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and OUR Walmart hours before the NLRB made its official announcement. The fact that a union boss and a union affiliated worker center knew that the NLRB was taking action against Walmart hours before the public was informed is disgraceful and shows that this government agency is colluding with Big Labor. It’s just another example of the dishonest and highly orchestrated smear campaign that is being launched this holiday season against the nation’s largest retailer.

Walmart protest organizers would like to have the public believe that employees are leading a grassroots effort to institute changes at the company. In reality, the actions by OUR Walmart are part of an ongoing and sophisticated campaign led by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW.) The group’s nationwide protests are carefully staged and choreographed events that are designed to deceive consumers and build support for Big Labor’s agenda. Far from a spontaneous grassroots uprising of retail workers, the Black Friday “protests” of last year – and the ones planned for this holiday season – are nothing more than union-funded theatrics carried out by professional protestors.

With membership at historic lows, organized labor has made no secret of its wish to organize Walmart’s 1.4 million workers. Previous attempts by the UFCW to attack the company under banners like “Wake-up Walmart” and “Walmart Watch” fell mostly flat. The company’s reputation took a few hits but the UFCW failed to diminish overall sales or – much to Big Labor’s dismay – organize any employees.

Undeterred, the UFCW launched Organization United for Respect at Walmart – or OUR Walmart – in 2010. Apart from its more benign and inclusive-sounding name, OUR Walmart gives the UFCW an advantage it didn’t have with previous anti-Walmart campaigns. The group promotes itself as an independent non-profit worker center whose membership consists of former and current Walmart employees seeking broad improvements in wages and benefits. In reality, OUR Walmart is a thinly veiled extension of the UFCW that exists outside the restrictions imposed by federal labor laws. Unlike unions, worker centers do not have to file annual reports with the U.S. Department of Labor disclosing membership and financial information. OUR Walmart also can stage ongoing protests outside Walmart stores – as it did last year on Black Friday – without heeding strict federal guidelines for such actions.

The UFCW’s strategy thrives in this murky legality. It claims a large membership in OUR Walmart without ever disclosing those numbers or the organization’s board of directors. The UFCW can also provide staffing and financial support for OUR Walmart without fear of legal or public backlash. Dan Schlademan, director of Making Change at Walmart (which oversees the OUR Walmart effort) is on the UFCW payroll earning $156,292 as a campaign organizer. Schlademan built his career organizing for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) before joining the UFCW’s attacks on Walmart. He’s one of countless union organizers on permanent loan to the OUR Walmart campaign. It’s also notable that his previous employer, SEIU, is undertaking an identical strategy as UFCW – using worker center front groups like Fast Food Forward and Fight for 15 to attack and unionize chain restaurants.

The dishonest campaign launched by Big Labor against Walmart is a shameless attempt to undermine the nation’s largest retailer. This Black Friday, people should reject their phony protests recognize the true motives of shadow organizations like OUR Walmart that deliberately deceiving the public.